Concussion substitutes will be trialled in the Sheffield Shield this year, after the ICC cleared the way for the change while allowing the competition to retain its first-class status. A successful trial over the next two seasons could even open a path for concussion substitutes to be introduced into Test cricket.
Cricket Australia has pushed hard for cricket to allow concussion substitutes, having introduced the system - in which a team can enact a like-for-like replacement if a player is ruled out mid-match by medical staff due to a concussion - in both men's and women's one-day and T20 competitions last summer. In a Matador Cup game in October, New South Wales became the first team to use the system when Nick Larkin was subbed in as a full member of the side after Daniel Hughes was concussed.
However, the ICC had rejected Cricket Australia's proposal for the system to be allowed in first-class cricket last year. That has now changed, after the ICC's cricket committee met in May this year, and recommended a two-year trial in first-class cricket, a decision that was then approved by the ICC's Chief Executives Committee.
And in July, the MCC's World Cricket Committee added its support for the two-year trial option without jeopardising the first-class status, though at the same time it decided against altering the Laws of Cricket - which apply at all levels of the game - to allow concussion substitutes.
Cricket Australia's concussion policy was altered following the death of Phillip Hughes in 2014, and team medical staff now have the sole discretion as to whether a player may continue in a match or be ruled out after a blow to the head.
"Cricket Australia has been a strong advocate for concussion substitutes and we have successfully introduced this into our other competitions," a Cricket Australia spokesperson said. "We look forward to formalising the introduction of this rule into the Sheffield Shield ahead of this season."
The introduction of concussion substitutes to Sheffield Shield cricket is expected to be formally confirmed after the ICC's new regulations come into effect on October 1.